Traits of Successful People
Determination. Motivation. Perseverance. Words we all can easily define. We see success with our eyes, yet many of us do not understand how it happens. Here are some traits of success that many will deny: Success is not based on your background. Success is not luck. Success is not random. Success is not defined by others. Success is not a fluke. Success is not defined in monetary value. Success is not universally measured. Success is defined and controlled by you and you alone.
It’s easy to visualize successful people – the business owners, the actors, athletes, and other wealthy people we encounter in the news. Would it be hard to swallow when I say that there are equally successful people around you everywhere? Success is defined by you and you alone. A single mom that had only one goal – to get her kids through college – defines her success around that. If she achieves it, she is successful. You see, success isn’t the amount of money you make, the size of the house you have, or how nice your car is – it can be those things – it’s whether you achieve your own goals, whatever they may be. As far as success is concerned, the world around you does not exist, only you and what you personally want does.
That being said, success is merely the goal – how do we get there? While brainstorming about the topic I wrote down about fifteen traits I think most – if not all – successful people represent. These are traits I personally try to emulate when I pursue my goals. I can attest to the fact that they are a big factor in me improving my own life and getting closer to my long term plans. Today, we’ll take a look at three of these traits (the ones which I felt were the most general in practice), what they mean, and why together they can help define successful attitudes.
Defined simply as “firmness of purpose; resoluteness” (courtesy of my Merriam-Webster dictionary), determination can in practice be seen really as the basic principle of success – defining your goal. To be clear: there’s a marked difference between saying “Gosh, I really want to go to college” and declaring “I am going to graduate college”. Determining what you want out of your life may seem very basic, but many people take years to come to this conclusion. Take some time, get out a pen and paper if you have to. Ask yourself where you want to be in five years. Decide what that requires and begin committing yourself to it.
Determination also involves deciding the best route to take to the end. You may be able to become district manager at the retail company you work at through hard work at your job, but you might be able to increase your likelihood through obtaining a degree in business. There are many different paths, and a determined mind can find the best path to the end.
Certainly not the first time that motivation has been mentioned, but it has a lasting impression in determining the likelihood of success. “The general desire or willingness of someone to do something.” This definition is simple, short, and one hundred percent true. Look in the mirror. How bad do you want it?
Before I got in shape, I spent years of my life sitting around waiting for the weight to disappear. I simply didn’t want it enough. I had to force myself to want it. I looked in the mirror every day and envisioned what I’d look like. I made my goals small; every ten pounds I celebrated and looked forward to the next ten. Keeping motivated was in it of itself part of the weight loss. There were weeks where I lost very little in comparison to the weeks where the weight seemed to pour off. That can really kill motivation, but you have to convince yourself to keep moving forward in any way possible. Even when I plateaued, I always managed to persevere through it. Remind yourself that small steps forward are still steps forward. Keep your goals simple, effective, and realistic.
“Steadfastness in doing something despite difficulty or delay in achieving success.” This is probably the one trait that would-be successful people lack. Life can be difficult. Crap is thrown at us from every direction and if we aren’t careful it can overtake us. Cars break down, meetings are canceled, applications are ignored. There will always be setbacks. The difference between failure and success is often defined by how willing we are to persevere through the problems life brings us. Setbacks will always occur – but it’s up to you to maneuver around them and push forward. When a problem occurs, do not immediately give up. Plan around it.
There is not one single formula to success. I’ve seen plenty of self-improvement e-books in the darkest corners of the internet that can guarantee with certainty that if you follow their rules you will certainly be the next millionaire. I cannot promise that. What I can tell you is that there are definable traits of success that we can all look at and take inspiration from. You ready? If you want it all, then it’s time to believe that you can get it.
Considered by most to be a natural talent, having good instinct about what fosters a successful idea is something that can be trained and sharpened. The best of the best saw quite a few failures intermittently with their successes. Just ask Donald Trump about the USFL. Defined as “A natural or intuitive way of acting or thinking”, instinct helps guide someone from making slip-ups and errors. It also helps sniff out great ideas. While common sense is surprisingly not all that common, making an effort to research and emulate successful people can lay a starting foundation of what works and what doesn’t. Pay attention to tips you hear from others while networking with them. Remember who is reliable in a pinch and who isn’t. Instinct isn’t merely about having a natural sense on what works – it’s having the mindfulness to pay attention to the events of your own life and learn how to use past events to improve your current situations.
The ability to lead and spearhead successful endeavors takes a certain caliber of dedication that can often be an arduous undertaking in practice. Leaders are not born – they are made. Those who pay attention to the great leaders around them can in turn meld their own abilities. Leadership can be subdivided into two primary types: social leadership and task leadership. A good leader can exemplify both of these (or a good partnership divides these appropriately).
Social leadership includes getting those underneath you or partnered with you excited, engaged, motivated, and as passionate about it as you are. This takes a degree of social aptitude, but the benefits of this are seen almost immediately: more engaged workers and more general interest from others. A socially-minded leader can take a disgruntled, lazy employee and turn them into the next manager. Social leadership takes a democratic mindset; it connects with the employees and makes certain they feel they have a part in the bigger picture.
Task leadership includes the ability to stay organized in distributing tasks, recognizing strengths and weaknesses of both themselves and others, and the ability to keep work flowing quickly and effectively. The primary motivation is to encourage work to be completed in the best manner possible. Task leadership takes a goal-oriented mindset; it asks itself how it can best organize itself for a goal and arrange the people involved around it.
“The use of the imagination or original ideas.” Certainly the most abstract concept we will take an in-depth look at, creativity is in one sense the originality of an idea, but equally important the ability to consider situations, scenarios, and issues that may arise in the idea-making process. A creative person offers a unique insight to the table that has what I refer to as “visionary qualities”; qualities that notice trends in the future of society, ideas that are appealing to the mass public, and ideas that fulfill needs that people seek.
True creativity requires a fine balance between reality and dreams. My idea (which I came up with on the fly) for a website that lets you design your own cubist hamburger artwork is certainly different, but we can all guess by looking at it that it’s just not an idea that would yield success. A creative mind might take that, see the theme of hamburgers, and consider creating a site that reviews the best hamburgers in the country. Creativity isn’t merely about coming up with a wacky idea, it’s about understanding the limitations of success and making your idea fit within them.
For those that aren’t feeling particularly creative (and believe me, it happens to all of us), consider gathering a group of friends to discuss a general idea you have had. Often times, an idea may seem boring on the surface, but after a night of hatching it out with people you would be surprised how far it will have come. If you’re merely at the idea-making stage, write down as many ideas as you can in a notebook. Take time to cross out ones that you believe won’t work and leave the ones that do. Consider getting input from others about it as well.
The common thread between these three concepts is their focus on idea management. Instinct gives us a sense of what may work and what won’t. Leadership is necessary to execute the idea efficiently. Creativity inspires ideas and can help evolve them into a winner. All success begins with an idea – that may be “I want to be district manager at my company” or “I want to start a band”. Maybe it’s a bit crazier than either of those, but it doesn’t matter. It’s how we use those ideas, evolving and executing them, that does.